Scientists have taken robotics to a whole new level, achieving something that's highly important in the survival of any species.
Robots can now actually reproduce!
These Pac-Man-like "living robots" called Xenobots utilize a completely innovative, novel approach to biological self-replication, The Next Web reported.
Xenobots Produce 'Offspring' That Look and Move Like Them
Authors of the new study, "Kinematic self-replication in reconfigurable organisms" in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, found out that the robots can collect hundreds of single cells and amass them into their "baby" Xenobots. This "offspring" would then develop to look and move like their "parents," the study said.
This "birthing" of Xenobot offspring would repeat over and over again, just like a multiplication of the species.
In a statement, study co-author and Tufts University senior scientist Douglas Blackiston said it has been quite a long time for people to come up with ways to reproduce or replicate, but this discovery of living robots producing offspring is "something that's never been observed before."
These millimeter-wide, Petri-dish confined Xenobots are put together from living cells taken from frog embryos. Study co-leader and Tufts biologist Michael Levin said they observed that the Xenobots would sit outside of a tadpole, keep out pathogens and redistribute mucus. Levin said they are "putting them in a novel context," thus allowing them to "reimagine their multicellularity."
Xenobots can independently "give birth" to their children, but the parent system would normally die after the reproduction. Researchers turned to artificial intelligence to give these "parents" a chance to witness their offspring grow up. These scientists utilized an evolutionary algorithm to examine billions of possible body shapes in simulation.
Xenobot's 'Pac-Man' Form Ideal for Self-Replication
This system was developed to look for these forms or shapes that should be fitting for self-replication. An astonishing creation of the system is a form that resembled "Pac-Man." Study lead author Sam Kriegman said the form of the Xenobot was "very non-intuitive" and looks "very simple."
Researchers then used the Pac-Man-like Xenobot to test its child-rearing ability. They found out that the AI-developed parent could utilize the Pac-Man-shaped "mouth" to constrict stem cells into a circular "children."
These "children" would then produce a Xenobot dynasty of "grandchildren," "great-grandchildren," and "great-great grandchildren," and so forth.
While Xenobots have been observed to be able to work in groups, self-heal and store memories, this is the first time they've been determined to be able to "raise a family."
This study could lead to fears of self-replicating robot swarms that are actually terrifying to see in science fiction. However, these scientists remain optimistic about the outcomes of their research. They stress that the Xenobots could help advance several technologies, from living machines that tidy up microplastics to new medications, the report added.
But Levin is most excited with its potential impact on regenerative medicine. In this process, scientists could dictate a collection of cells on what it needs to do, just like in healing injuries from trauma, cancer, aging and even birth defects. Xenobots would "provide a platform" for teaching researchers on how to achieve this goal.
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